DLogistics entrepreneur Klaus-Michael Kühne has advanced to become the largest private shareholder in Deutsche Lufthansa. As reported, the billionaire indirectly owns 10 percent of the airline through his Kühne Holding AG since the beginning of this week. At first they were satisfied with this position; but it could also be that the stakes are raised even higher, says the head of Kühne Holding, Karl Gernandt, in an interview with FAZ
Gernandt is Kühne’s right-hand man; he monitors his holdings and explores new investments. He has huge funds at his disposal for this: As the majority owner of the logistics giant Kühne + Nagel and a major shareholder in the container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, Kühne Holding receives high dividends year after year. The Hapag-Lloyd dividend alone for 2021 would be enough to create a blocking minority at Lufthansa.
According to Gernandt, Kuehne Holding, privately owned by Klaus-Michael Kuehne, paid more than €800 million for the 10 percent stake in Lufthansa it has acquired so far. “The entry is a logical step to expand Kühne Holding’s commitment in logistics in the direction of air freight,” says Gernandt, describing the motivation for taking the shares. And: “Lufthansa is an ideal destination for long-term investors like us. We are financially strong and are well acquainted with the matter.”
Blocking minority not in sight
There are no plans to link the various logistics companies under the umbrella of Kuehne Holding. Nothing should or will change in the existing structures in logistics and supply chains. “We are very keen for the companies under the Kuehne Holding umbrella to develop their own strengths. We don’t believe in the grocery store. Everyone should do what they can do perfectly.” One wants to keep the “individual pearls” and let them develop further.
As a Hapag-Lloyd shareholder, Kühne has also had concrete influence in the past. Can this also be expected at Lufthansa? No, Gernandt replies, they do not want to influence the strategy of the airline, which has a strong management team. “With a 10 percent stake, we’re certainly not called upon to make smart comments from the sidelines.” well positioned for the coming boom in aviation. However, Gernandt is interested in an exchange with the board. “We want them to take us seriously and offer to engage in a strategic dialogue.” After all, it is also attractive for Lufthansa to have a globally connected logistics expert as a shareholder and strategic partner. “We want to be a competent investor who can perhaps help stabilize Lufthansa in difficult phases. And in the good phases we are happy”.
Kühne is considered a twisted entrepreneur
According to Gernandt, there are currently no concrete plans to further expand the stake in the airline. However, he indicates that an increase at a later date is quite conceivable. That is, when the federal government blows to withdraw. The federal government currently owns 14.09 percent of Lufthansa through the Economic Stabilization Fund. “The role of the federal government will be seen as a partnership,” Gernandt said pointedly. According to Gernandt, there are no plans to increase participation to a 25 percent blocking minority. Because then one would possibly face antitrust issues because Kuehne + Nagel and Lufthansa would be in a customer relationship and thus could be classified as affiliated companies.
Gernandt does not want to register an immediate right to a seat on the Lufthansa supervisory board. But he made it known that he thought it would be appropriate for Kühne Holding, as a major shareholder, to join the supervisory board sooner or later. It is not to be expected that Klaus-Michael Kühne will personally join the Supervisory Board. He had already been represented by Gernandt at Hapag-Lloyd (and at the HSV sports club in Hamburg).
Kühne is considered a crooked businessman, as is Heinz Hermann Thiele of supplier Knorr-Bremse, who had amassed a stake in Lufthansa. Thiele owned more than 15 percent of the shares at the top. However, after his sudden death, his heirs reduced his share again.